Fourth attack on Egyptian gas pipeline

An Egyptian gas pipeline in the Sinai peninsula has been hit by an explosion for the fourth time since February, Egypt’s MENA news agency reported today


The blast occurred near the town of al-Arish in the north of the peninsula, with flames up to 10 metres high.

MENA quoted witnesses as saying that the assailants attacked the Al-Tawil security guard at the station before blowing it up.

The security guard and some members of his family were believed to have been hurt, the agency said, quoting witnesses.

MENA said the governor of Northern Sinai and the area’s security chief arrived on the scene as security forces searched for those responsible.

Fire trucks were trying to contain the flames.

The state’s Nile television said flames from the station could be seen up to 20 kilometres away.

The area is being searched to find those behind this explosion and to find the type of explosives used,” MENA said.

The explosion has cut off gas supplies to Israel and Jordan.

MENA said the station pumps gas to another station in an area called Sheikh Zwayed, which exports gas to Israel.

Egypt has been trying to renegotiate gas prices with Israel and Jordan after president Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down in February and power was handed to the military council.

Egypt supplies about 40 per cent of Israel’s natural gas which is used to produce electricity.

Jordan buys 95 per cent of its energy needs and imports about 240 million cubic feet of Egyptian gas a day, which is 80 per cent of its electricity requirements.

In April, Egypt’s prime minister Essam Sharaf asked for the revision of all contracts to supply gas abroad, including to Israel.

Mr Sharaf said the contracts would be revisited so the gas “would be sold with deserved prices that achieve the highest returns for Egypt”.

The controversial gas deal with Israel has been repeatedly challenged in Egyptian courts due to its secretive clauses and over prices, and because it was sealed without parliamentary consultation.

In May, Jordan said Egypt was withholding its contracted gas supply unless a new deal was signed at a higher price.

A security source had said after a blast on July 4 that men in a small truck who were armed with machine guns forced guards at the station to flee, then planted explosive charges.

Egypt’s gas transport company, Gasco, a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS, has been finalising repairs on the pipeline and was expected to complete the work over the weekend.

Previous attacks on the pipeline on April 27 and on February 5 forced its closure for several weeks.

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